November 17, 2018

Expired and Inspired On the Road

Recently, for several weeks, I published this blog from ‘on the road’. The reason for the travel is related to the blog, and I thought it might be worthwhile to let readers know, because some of the upcoming entries in the weeks ahead will be as a result of that travel.

If you are reading this, you likely already know what Kavod v’Nichum is all about, but let me summarize.

“>Gamliel Institute. The mission is described as: The Gamliel Institute educates and trains leaders to create a holistic end-of-life care continuum for their local communities. Our goal is to deepen future leaders' Jewish knowledge and to help them experience the emotional, transformative, and spiritual aspects of Chevrah Kadisha work. We strive to instill in them a driving passion to recapture the mitzvah of Chevrah Kadisha. Our five twelve week on-line courses present a groundbreaking opportunity for study and learning. Those who successfully complete these five courses and all related work earn certification from the Gamliel Institute.

The detailed education provided across theory and application, and the online course materials presented, are both an amazing resource and a phenomenal educational opportunity, but it isn’t all that the Gamliel Institute offers. Not mentioned so far is the sixth course. This course is called Chevrah Kadisha: International Perspectives, and is the Gamliel Institute's capstone course. The core component of Course 6 is the international study mission which provides a hands-on opportunity for students to examine important, influential cultural and historical aspects of the Chevrah Kadisha movement in North America, Europe, and Israel. Students have an opportunity to be part of joint learning and teaching in order to expand Chevrah Kadisha practices. Students who experience this mission will be positioned to evaluate any community's unique challenges and work with those communities and their Chevrah Kadisha groups to find solutions that are the best practices for them.

I took part in the first ever Gamliel Institute study mission trip, which is the heart of that sixth course, International Perspectives. Only those who have successfully completed the first five courses and fulfilled the prerequisites were eligible to participate. The group that took part consisted of the two founders of the Gamliel Institute (Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Dean of the Gamliel Institute, and David Zinner, the Executive Director), and sixteen students (a few more had qualified, but for various personal reasons could not participate at this time).

The course included travel to New York, Prague, Tsefat, and Jerusalem. In each of those locations we talked to others involved in the work of the Chevrah Kadisha, using the most expansive definition, which included everything from final illness through comforting mourners during the year that followed a death (and sometimes beyond). We interacted with people who do Shmirah and Taharah (which was amazing all by itself), but we also met and worked with hospital staff, doctors, nurses, hospice workers, Spiritual Care providers, psychologists, cemetery managers and workers, funeral directors, artists, musicians, military personnel, architects, NGOs, archeologists, talmudists, poskim halachah, first responders, emergency workers, planners, rabbis, elected officials, librarians, researchers, and many more, all of whom have some connection to the work that we learn and teach about and do.

This was an experience like no other. I can honestly say that it was physically exhausting, emotionally draining, and extremely challenging, but it was also a form of avodat kodesh – sacred work, work that touches on the divine in our world. It was all about work that related to honoring the soul of others and raising the sparks in the broken world around us. It made me even more grateful to be privileged to work in this holy space, to do this sacred work, to know these amazing people, and to be a part of something that is so much more than it seems on the surface.

Over the next weeks and months you will see more entries that relate to this experience, written from different perspectives by others. I wanted to be sure you would know what they are talking about so it would make sense as you read it.





Starting in October:

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution (HOE). Tuesdays, 12 online sessions (orientation session Monday October 12th, classes Tuesdays from October 13th to December 29th, 8-9:30 pm EST/5-6:30 pm PST. An examination of the modern Chevrah Kadisha from 1626 in Prague, through history and geography, as imported to Europe and the world, brought to the US, and as it has developed and changed over time, bringing us up to the present, including text study, history, sociology, politics, and other factors..

Winter 2016:   

During the coming Winter semester, the Gamliel Insitute will be offering two courses. Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah (T&S), and Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Practices, & Liturgy [Other than Taharah] (RPL). These courses will begin in January, and will each run for 12 sessions. More information to come, or visit the Gamliel Institute section of the Kavod v’Nichum website.


We are considering offering courses mid-day (East Coast time) as a convenience to those who have scheduling issues (including those overseas in Israel and other places) with the evening times now in use. This is anticipated to be the same online format and material as the courses that have been offered in past, but at a time that works better for some than the evening (Eastern Standard). If you are interested in this option, please be in touch to let us know: we need to assess the level of interest as we determine whether to offer this option. or

Contact us for more information about scholarships, or any other questions. or call 410-733-3700.

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